Weekend Wrap-Up for May 21-23, 2010
No Good News for Box Office, Shrek, MacGruber
By John Hamann
May 23, 2010
After reading the above, to say that Paramount and DreamWorks have left money on the table is a huge understatement. The filmmakers and the studio are to blame here, as they appear to have made Shrek Forever After with only one intention: to make money. They hired no-name director Mike Mitchell, whose credits included Sky High, the ungodly Surviving Christmas, and the mostly insane Deuce Bigelow: Male Gigolo (yeah, let's get him to direct an animated kids flick!). They spent less on this one than the other films in the series, despite doing Forever After in 3D, which adds another $20-30 million to a movie's budget. This Shrek came in at 54% at RottenTomatoes, and the marketing - at best - smacked of effort (remember when the marketing for these was funny?). Paramount deserves lowered returns for this one.
For DreamWorks Animation, Shrek Forever After doesn't do much better than their other releases since Shrek the Third came out. DreamWorks biggest since that film was Madagascar: Escape to Africa, which opened to $63.1 million in November 2008. Despite the big debut, the Madagascar sequel died after opening, earning only $180 million at domestic cinemas, or less than three times its first weekend. Shrek Forever After is the studio's third attempt at a 3D winner following Monsters vs Aliens ($59.3 million opening, $198 million domestic finish, $175 million budget) and How to Train Your Dragon. Dragon made news for opening soft with $43.7 million, and then made news with its serious legs, as it has earned $210.9 million since then ($218 million will be five times its opening weekend). To hope that Shrek 4 will have Dragon's legs is simply foolish, as Toy Story 3 is only three weekends away.
Iron Man 2 finishes second, but even Robert Downey Jr. can't deliver good news to the box office. After dropping 60% last weekend from its $128 million opening, Iron Man 2 stumbled again this weekend, earning $26.6 million. That gives Iron Man 2 another severe drop of 49%, and a running total so far of $251.3 million. The original Iron Man had much better legs. It did drop 50% in its second weekend, but then brought that drop up to only 38% in its third weekend when it earned $31.8 million. The law of diminishing returns now tells us that Iron Man 2 is going to earn significantly less than the original did, the question is now by how much. Iron Man 2 still has a good shot at $300 million, but it's going to need to depreciate less than 50% in the next two frames. Overseas grosses are starting to outshine domestic returns, but the likelihood of being a worldwide billion dollar winner is quickly waning.
Iron Man 2's biggest problem is that it's playing like a later sequel. Using Spider-Man 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End as examples, we will see the trend. The last Spider-Man flick opened to a huge $151.1 million before falling 62% in the second frame (Iron Man 2 fell 59.4%). Spidey 3 then had a third weekend drop of 50.1%, bringing its weekend gross down to $29 million. After 17 days, Spider-Man 3 had earned $282 million after 17 days. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End opened to $114.7 million, and dropped 61.5% in its second frame. It then fell 52% in its third frame, finding $21.1 million. Pirates had a cume of $253.4 million after 17 days. The last thing Paramount wants is for audiences to be "checking out" on the character after after only two movies.